Do you wish you could fast-forward a few years and find out whether you will become rich and famous? Or travel to the distant future and marvel at all the new inventions? If so, get to work inventing a time machine.
Futurama. H. G. Wells’s 1895 novel The Time Machine fired people’s imaginations about time travel. Then, in 1905, Einstein’s Theory of Special Relativity made it seem possible. His theory says that time isn’t constant but slows down the faster you go, and the theory has since been proven (admittedly, you have to be going very fast indeed).
Some scientists have theorized that, if it were possible to travel at the speed of light, we could go backwards in time. (Einstein decided it meant that travel at the speed of light is impossible.)
Other time-travel theories involve wormholes in space and time, black holes and other mysterious bits of physics. But you probably won’t be surprised that no one has actually managed to build a time machine, yet. There’s a big problem that any time machine would have to overcome: if you travel backwards in time, you can alter the future.
And if you travel to the future and then come back to the present, that can alter the future too. But if you can get round this basic paradox, come up with some extremely sophisticated technology, and understand an awful lot of complicated physics, perhaps you can become the inventor of the first time machine.
A Time Traveler Convention was held at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2005, the hope of attracting visitors from the future – 300 people attended, none of them was from the future, but the event continues to be advertised so that future time travelers might go.
If you had a time machine, where would you go and what period of time would you investigate? Make a list of the years you’d like to visit.
To be a successful time traveler you’ll need to master blending in with the locals. When travelling to the past, wearing your own clothes, talking about modern life or making predictions about things that you know will happen in the future will probably land you in trouble.
You might be burnt at the stake for being a witch. Make sure you get all the up-to-date injections from your doctor before you go, as you don’t want to travel to the past and contract the bubonic plague or some extinct disease and bring it back to the present.
On the other hand, you don’t want to travel to the past with a common cold either and then kill off half of the population of the world. If that happened, you might wipe out your own family tree and then you’d disappear, as if you were never born in the first place!
If you could travel to the past and change one thing in history, what would it be? If you could visit yourself in 20 years’ time, what would you hope to find?